Collagen is a naturally occurring protein that provides support to various parts of the human body, including the skin, joints, bones and ligaments. It is used primarily to fill wrinkles, lines and scars on the face and sometimes the neck, back and chest.
Injectable collagen is derived from bovine collagen that undergoes a purification process to create a product similar to human collagen. Injectable collagen received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in 1981. It is produced in various degrees of thickness to meet individual patient needs.
The Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery offers collagen injections.
Treatment with collagen can begin after a skin test determines that you are not allergic to the substance. The collagen is injected using a fine needle inserted at several points along the edge of the treatment site. If local anesthesia has not been used, you may feel some minor stinging or burning as the injections are administered.
Since part of the substance is salt water that will be absorbed by the body within a few days, your doctor will slightly overfill the area. You may be asked to hold a hand mirror during the procedure to help your doctor decide when you have had enough.
Immediately following treatment, you may notice some minor discomfort, stinging or throbbing in the injected area. Occasionally, some bruising or swelling will occur, but it is usually minor. Any redness that appears in the injected site usually disappears within 24 hours. However, in some individuals (particularly fair-skinned patients) this redness may persist for a week or more. Tiny scabs may also form over the needle-stick areas, but these generally heal quickly.
No bandaging is needed, and you are free to eat, drink and wear makeup with sunblock protection shortly thereafter. There may be some temporary swelling and redness in the treated area, which should dissipate within a few days. If these symptoms persist, contact your surgeon.
Collagen's longevity depends on the patient's lifestyle and physical characteristics, as well as the part of the body treated. In general, the injected material is likely to disappear faster in areas that are more affected by muscle movement. Your doctor can help you determine how long you can go between treatments to best maintain your results.
Risks Related to Injectables
When injectables are administered by a qualified plastic surgeon, complications are infrequent and usually minor in nature. Still, individuals vary greatly in their anatomy, physical reactions and healing abilities. The outcome of treatment with injectables is never completely predictable.
Allergic reaction is the primary risk of collagen. To help determine if you are allergic to the substance, your surgeon will perform an allergy skin test about a month before the procedure. After the test is performed, the test site should be watched carefully for three or four weeks or as long as your surgeon advises. Any sign of redness, itching, swelling or other occurrences at the test site should be reported to your surgeon.
Risks not necessarily related to allergies include infection, abscesses, open sores, skin peeling, scarring and lumpiness, which may persist over the treated area. Reports of these problems are very rare.